I'm writing to follow up on my testimony at last week's meeting concerning Senator Leeper's bill, SB 156, which would remove the current prohibition on commencement of construction of a nuclear electric generating plant until the federal government had implemented plans for construction and opening of a permanent waste disposal facility for high-level nuclear waste generated from nuclear power production.
KRC appreciates Senator Leeper joining the issue of the role of nuclear energy in meeting the future energy needs of the Commonwealth. In a state where 98% of our electricity is produced by fossil fuels, what has been our strength in offering low-cost electricity is potentially becoming a liability in a carbon-constrained world where carbon dioxide emissions will be, according to most observers, subject to mandated reductions within the next decade.
While nuclear energy is part of the national energy mix, it has not been part of the state energy portfolio. The legacy of mismanaged nuclear wastes at Maxey Flats continues to be a management responsibility and fiscal obligation for which the Commonwealth will continue indefinitely to foot the bill. It is appropriate that prior to engaging in the development of new nuclear power plants, a strategy for permanent disposal of the wastes be in place. The indefinite storage of high-level wastes at nuclear plants in pools or dry cask storage due to the failure of the Department of Energy to have opened the Yucca Mountain repository presents significant homeland security concerns and is not a suitable surrogate for secure disposal of wastes that will, in some cases, pose human and ecological risks for centuries and beyond.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Complex, and USEC, have been and continue to be an economic driver in that area, and I can appreciate the desire to lift the construction ban. However, nothing in the current law prevents competition by USEC for other activities related to nuclear waste reprocessing and enrichment. Representing, as I do, neighbors of the PGDP facility who have borne some of the historic brunt of DOE's mismanagement of mixed, radioactive and hazardous wastes in the past, KRC can appreciate that the proper management of and a healthy respect for the potential of spent radioactive material to contaminate the environment, is justified.
The nuclear energy industry will not see significant reemergence until the core issues that have not been adequately addressed in the last 50 years are satisfactorily resolved: those being cost, safety, proliferation, waste disposal, and security. Nor will new investment in nuclear plants provide a meaningful contribution to achieving the short and near-term climate concerns, since the scientific community has suggested that reductions will be needed well in advance of the decade that typically is required for permitting, licensing and construction of such plants, if we are to stabilize the climate and avoid more significant consequences of climate change.
I would ask that you reject SB 156 as being premature, and I appreciate your consideration of these concerns, as I appreciate Senator Leeper's thoughtful approach towards this and other energy and environmental issues.
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc.